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Carbon Capture in Japan

The Bureau of Economic Geology’s Gulf Coast Carbon Center (GCCC) is renowned internationally as one of the foremost academic research institutions investigating carbon capture and storage. In 2017, the GCCC’s Tip Meckel helped maintain that reputation by leading a crew of 20 on a six-day data collection cruise off Japan’s north island of Hokkaido.

Meckel’s team arrived in Japan with unique acoustic instrumentation for three-dimensional mapping of the geology below the seafloor with ultrahigh resolution. (For more information, see the story on page 84.) The key to the equipment is a set of four, 25-meter-long streamers containing eight-channel acoustic sensors that are towed behind a research vessel. When an acoustic signal from a compressed air source is deployed, changes in the speed of the sound returning to the dense array of sensors are converted to a very fine scale 3-D model of the geology beneath the seafloor.

The survey was conducted offshore of the industrial port of Tomakomai, the site of an extensive CO2 capture, transport, and injection demonstration project. At the time of the survey, approximately 65,000 tons of CO2 had been injected into a geologic formation 1,100 meters below the seafloor.

The ultimate goal of the project is to store 100,000 tons of CO2 per year. The surveys conducted in 2017 were the first to attempt high resolution subsurface imaging at an active offshore CO2 demonstration project. Obtaining such information can help reduce the risk of leakage and could provide an estimate of the volume of CO2 stored in the reservoir. Meckel noted that the technology is suitable for deployment at other offshore sequestration sites, including sites in the Gulf of Mexico.